Selection* of Field Leaders, Part I (*Second Stewardship Practice)

People stewardship requires much wisdom in its selection of team, country or regional leaders, the second stewardship practice.  The following three areas are of critical importance: understanding the specific contexts of a vacated leader role; recruiting individuals whose DNA, skills and values match the role; and finally, selecting the gifted and committed person who best suits the vacated role.  And while completing these tasks, do not forget to consistently practice your spiritual disciplines, remembering the need for God’s wisdom.

The discussion in this post assumes that an onboarding process will follow the selection process so that the fruit of the selection efforts can bear bountiful fruit.  For an onboarding introduction see the Feb. 15, 2012 post.

Unlike most churches and other Christian non-profits, mission organizations typically select mid-level leaders almost exclusively from within the organization.  This limits the pool of candidates to the group’s own members. The breadth and depth of that leadership reservoir depends on the organization’s diligence in nurturing and developing its own members.  Read the “Leader Reservoir” post, July 25, 2012, for an overview.

In selecting field leaders it would be wise to follow the idea promoted by Stephen Covey,”Begin with the end in mind.”  This means that we start with a clear picture of what we believe an effective field leader can be and do given the realities of the role and the effectiveness of those currently serving on the team.  No unwritten pipe dreams here.

Beginning with the end in mind also means that we have a clear set of values that individuals will practice in their leader roles.  Paul had some: Philippians 2:3-5; II Timothy 1:7; and II Timothy 2:1-7 are just a few examples.  An overarching value for Ted Ward was, “Leadership is a serving relationship that has the effect of facilitating human development.”  Maybe that is one of your values; maybe it isn’t.  Just be sure you have your organization’s values articulated so that you can select new field leaders consistent with them.  I suggest two cautions in writing them: 1) Watch the language so that commonly used Christian clichés do not obscure clarity; and 2) Be sure that all mission leaders own and practice those values.  We cannot expect new field leaders to practice values not lived-out by mission leadership.

On the practical process side, let’s look at three major phases of the selection process: due diligence, recruitment, and the choice itself. The purpose of these phases is to lead us to select and appoint field leaders who will empower mission personnel to effectively serve in a manner that matches the organization’s mission statement, which is a public statement of its role in the Kingdom.

The sequence of the specific actions outlined below will vary depending on the organization’s selection practices and the specifics of the vacated field leader position.  Note: the specifics are given based on a process whereby organizational leaders select a new field leader.  The specifics obviously need to be adjusted, but not neglected, in those organizations that elect their field leaders. 

Phase I:  Due Diligence:  Understanding the contextual realities of the specific vacant field leader position.  

  1. A.     In answering the following questions, pray for the discipline to observe both the positive and negative in the specific situation of the vacated position. The greater the honesty with which we answer these questions, the better prepared we will be for the next stages of selection.  We can also expect God to change us as we learn and pray through this process.
  2. B.     Do we have prospective field leaders prepared to assume the role?  Depending on how well we have selected and developed mission personnel, the reservoir of potential leaders may be large or running dry.  See the July 25, 2012 post for a discussion on the leader reservoir.
  3. C.     How do our mission personnel perceive the vacant field leader position?   Is it viewed as a necessary evil to do just administrative work for the mission? OR, is it viewed as a position of stewardship that has significant responsibilities and a role that impacts people for the Kingdom?   Qualified mission personnel won’t usually accept the position if it has a history of mere administration, important as this function might be to the organization.  They want to see an alignment with their own calling. They also want to work within an organizational framework, but not be micro managed.  See the June 11, 2012 post for a holistic discussion of field leader roles and responsibilities.
  4. D.     What is the health of the missionary unit for which this position provides leadership?  Each field leader position has a unique set of challenges and blessings.  Are the individuals who belong to the group working effectively together in ministry with a strategic sense of direction?  OR is it a group that is floundering and entangled in conflict?  OR some other combination?  Understanding the current specifics of the group provides an input for a reality-based position description.
  5. E.      What are the expectations of this position?   Have the 24-7 demands of the role, including implications for spouse and family, been articulated?  Is there an up-to-date written position description with a list of challenges and opportunities?
  6. F.      What is the organizational commitment to develop and train the new field leader?   No new field leader is fully equipped at the beginning to handle the demands of the role.   What is the commitment for his or her development with coaching?  (See the February 15, 2012post for an onboarding introduction.)  What is the commitment to his or her long-term development?  (See the June 20, 2012 post for an overview of “Empowering Oversight.”)   What is the organization willing to invest in this field leader?  This is a fair question to ask because we are expecting the new field leader to invest his/her life into the lives of mission personnel.  Is there a reasonable exchange of investment?

These areas of due diligence will give the perspective and information needed for the next step: Recruitment. (See next post).

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